New UArizona Nursing Program Aims to Improve Nursing Career Advancement for American Indian Communities

Mar 4, 2020
A $2-million award from the Indian Health Service to the University of Arizona College of Nursing will establish a new academic program, American Indians in Nursing: Career Advancement and Transition Scholars.

TUCSON, Ariz. – Thanks to a five-year, $2 million award from the Indian Health Service (IHS), the University of Arizona College of Nursing academic program, American Indians in Nursing: Career Advancement and Transition Scholars (INCATS), seeks to increase the number of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and advanced-practice Native American nurses who will practice in tribal facilities.

The INCATS program is led by Michelle Kahn-John, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC, GNP, clinical associate professor of nursing, with mentorship from Mary Koithan, PhD, RN, CNS-BC, FAAN, associate dean of professional/community engagement, and Professor Joan Shaver, PhD, RN, FAAN. INCATS builds on the success of the college’s Arizona Nursing Inclusive Excellence (ANIE) program, a federal Health Resources and Services Administration-funded initiative to improve diversity in the nursing workforce and strengthen efforts that improve inclusivity and student support.

“I am most grateful to Drs. Kahn-John, Koithan and Shaver for their creative approach to increasing the number of undergraduate and graduate Native American nursing students in the College of Nursing,” said Ida M. “Ki” Moore, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the College of Nursing. “With support from this highly competitive national IHS award, the INCATS program will support our efforts to build new partnerships with tribal communities and to increase the diversity of the next generation of nursing leaders.”

A cooperative agreement with the IHS Division of Health Professional Support, INCATS will fund and support nursing career transition and advancement of American Indians and Alaska Natives interested in entering or advancing their nursing careers. It also will create new pathways for associate degree nurses to advance their careers and build new tribal-academic practice collaborations that expand the Native American workforce prepared to improve care of native populations.

“With much excitement, we begin 2020 by supporting five American Indian/Alaska Native scholars on their academic journeys,” Dr. Kahn-John said. “The goal of the INCATS team is to offer an inclusive, safe, supportive and enriching academic experience for every student who attends the UArizona College of Nursing. The INCATS program expands our capacity to partner with our American Indian communities in the shared mission to increase the number of skilled, competent, caring, compassionate Wildcat nurses who will serve as role models and health-care leaders in their tribal communities.”

All of the tribal health-care systems in Arizona's 22 federally recognized tribes/nations report extreme nurse shortages, particularly American Indian registered nurses. Leaders report the most critical needs are RNs who can move between acute and primary care and nurse practitioners in family and psychiatric/mental health specialties.

“The University of Arizona College of Nursing’s firm commitment to inclusive excellence is building a better world for our students and our state,” said UArizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD. “The INCATS program will help create a more diverse and culturally competent nursing workforce primed to serve our community partners.”

Dr. Kahn-John and her team will develop and implement the INCATS program in collaboration with their tribal community partners throughout Arizona as well as other tribal partners in South Dakota and Montana.

To be eligible for the INCATS program, scholars must be American Indian or Alaska Native, enrolled at the UArizona College of Nursing as a pre-nursing or nursing student, and must be nominated by a community partner, such as a tribal clinic, college or organization. INCAT Career Advancement Scholars will receive tailored educational plans to achieve their professional goals, mentorship and academic navigation to ensure best outcomes for each scholar and each tribal community partner. These efforts will result in additional BSN-prepared RNs and advanced-practice American Indian and Alaska Native NPs (nurse practitioners) to practice in tribal facilities.

In addition, the grant supports flexible career-advancing degree pathways for American Indian and Alaska Native RNs with community college degrees through an RN-MSN program in clinical systems leadership. Interactive continuing professional education resources will be created and shared with tribal partners to support and enhance clinical competence and improve the quality of care delivered to tribal communities. College leaders note partnerships with tribal community colleges will foster greater capacity to support tribal and community-based academic programs as “stepping stones” to a UArizona education, as well as enhance the college’s development of a culture that nurtures and sustains American Indian/Alaska Native students.


NOTE: Photos available upon request.

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
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